SUPERFINE WOOL: THE ORIGINS
Whilst in New Zealand for a family Xmas and holiday through December I had the chance to visit my Father’s work which is where almost all the fine wool from the South Island of New Zealand is sent to be assessed and tested and given its super/micron counts strength tests and so forth. For someone involved in bespoke suiting and loving all things suit related it was fascinating to see firsthand how this is all done.
This processing centre recently had some wool come through at a world record 10.75 micron, or for those used to the old scale approximately a preposterous super 260!!!
However dont fall in love with the micron counts as they are only a measure of the fineness of the fibre not the strength, which is very difficult to attain in such fine fibres, hence making suits from these extraordinarily expensive as finding both is extremely difficult. So be very cautious when buying a suit or jacket in a very fine fabric at a price that seems to good to be true as it is probably made from inferior strength versions of the fine wools, which sell for a fraction of the price.
Here are the bins of the sorted and classed wool ready for auction. Much of the very fine wool isn’t sold this way, but instead sold by contract to mills and manufacturers overseas.
Just some raw fleece ready to be tested.
This machine randomly picks from a conveyor belt different strands from a bale, which are attached to a card and sent to the laboratory and tested for micron size, strength and impurities which all effect the value of the wool to a large extent and also to check if contracted wool has met the specs is was supposed to.
Here are two different pieces of fleece, the top one being much finer than the first as you will be able to see by looking quite closely at how tight the “crimple” (the creases in the fibre) is compared to the second picture. What you are seeing is the first being about 16.75 micron or super 140’s and the second approximately being 18.75 micron or super 110’s
I am trying to get some slides from the lab of showing the microscopic details.
For those wondering what the actual super count means i will explain briefly. It is a very old measurement of how long a piece of yarn could be spun from 1 pound of wool. This was smeasured in “hanks” which are those figure 8 pieces of wool your grandmother probably used to knit with and they are 560yards long each. so a pound of super 120 wool could be spun into 120 hanks of 560 yards each so 67,200 yards of yarn per pound of wool. This is now purely a theoretical measurement as it is impossible to spin wool that fine manually.
Microns are far easier to describe, they are simply the measurement of the fibre end on in millionths of a metre, simpler huh!!
For a quick reference here are the super counts up against their micron equivalents
Super 100 = 18.75micron
Super 110= 18.25
Super 120= 17.75
Super 130= 17.25
Super 140= 16.75
Super 150= 16.25
Super 160= 15.75
Super 180= 14.75
Super 200= 13.75
Super 220= 12.75
Super 240= 11.75